Legislators file lawsuit to drop Common Core State Standards in Louisiana

Say adoption process violated state laws

The Advocate reports:

“The challenge, which was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court, contends that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the state Department of Education failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act, which critics say was a required step that would have allowed crucial public input.”

Clearly, there is growing legislator opinion in Louisiana that the Common Core adoption process left the public largely out of the discussion. It will be interesting to see if the courts agree.

Taking liberty to the airwaves: BIPPS on Nelson County’s ‘Brooks & Co.’ radio show on Wednesday

Join me Wednesday at 11 a.m. on the “Brooks & Company” radio show on Bardstown’s 1320 WBRT-AM as I talk about the Bluegrass Institute’s upcoming online “Free to Learn” debate about school choice. Listen live here.

The show, which airs each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to Noon, is hosted by Jim Brooks, editor of the Nelson County Gazette, which also publishes our weekly Bluegrass Beacon column.

The radio show also is carried live by cable TV Channel 19 and is replayed each Wednesday evening @ 6:30 p.m.

Help support the Bluegrass Institute’s efforts to promote freedom and liberty on the airwaves across the commonwealth by donating here.

On the air: BIPPS scholar, board member on jobs and the economy

Join Tom Dupree, owner of Dupree Financial Group and member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Directors, and John Garen, Ph.D., University of Kentucky economics professor and chairman of the BIPPS Board of Scholars, tonight on KET’s Kentucky Tonight at 8 p.m.

Dupree and Garen join guest-host Renee Shaw and a panel of guests discussing jobs and the economy. Also appearing will be Chris Phillips, economics professor at Somerset Community College, and Anna Baumann, research and policy associate with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Watch the hour-long show live and online here. Kentucky Tonight programs are archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET, KET KY, and radio.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form at www.ket.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions and comments on Twitter @BillKET, #kytonight, or on KET’s Facebook page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county.

Plan to call in during the program with your comments and questions at 1-800-494-7605.

Help us continue to spread the message of free markets and free people on Kentucky’s airwaves. Click on the “Donate” button at www.bipps.org.

Bluegrass Beacon: Drug-pricing program needs more oversight

BluegrassBeaconLogoWe should never discount the unintended consequences of welfare programs, including waste, fraud and abuse that occurs when government decides it’s going to provide assistance to needy Americans but fails to include adequate oversight measures.

There’s a lot of concern that such accountability is missing when it comes to the 340B Drug Pricing Program – a project created by Congress in 1992 to provide life-saving prescription drugs to the poor and uninsured.

The 340B program established a cost-sharing system whereby pharmaceutical companies provide medications for purchase by eligible hospitals and clinics at discounted rates up to a whopping 50 percent as a condition for having their drugs covered by Medicaid.

The idea is great. The oversight? Not so good.

There is little accountability, for example, in how hospitals and clinics self-report the number of charity care patients they serve.

While providing charity to poor patients is good, too many hospitals have succumbed to the temptation to game the 340B system by taking a big crunchy bite out of the greed-inducing apple in the Garden of Government Assistance Programs while no one is watching.

Hospitals and big-contract pharmacies succumb by purchasing drugs at a deep discount without passing on those savings to uninsured patients. Thus, even uninsured patients are required to pay the full amount.

A recent investigation by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department Inspector General concludes that some providers even use the program to make money in an unhealthy manner on sick patients by buying drugs at a steep discount but turning around and charging the patient and insurance company the full co-pay and reimbursement and then pocketing the difference.

Multiply that by hundreds of thousands of patients annually, and you’ve got quite a pocket-lining scam.

Red flags also get hoisted when supporters of the deceptively named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act claim the new law is reducing the number of uninsured even as hospitals report an increase in the volume of patients served by the 340B program.

Drug purchases via the 340B program are expected to more than double – from $6 billion in 2010 to $13.4 billion by 2016 – while the number of Americans without prescription drug coverage will be cut nearly in half.

How do we reconcile this enormous increase in a drug program designed for the uninsured even as Kentucky officials claim to have reduced the number of uninsured by thousands through the new health exchange, and with Medicaid enrollment expected to swell by more than 300,000 new patients as a result of Obamacare?

It’s at least curious, if not alarming, that the amount of 340B drugs purchased during the last decade has grown by 800 percent. Shouldn’t a large decrease in the number of uninsured at least be somewhat reflected, as well, in a program designed to assist that same group?

Even the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) – the agency in charge of the program – agrees that better oversight is needed. The fact that only one hearing has been held in the 22 years since 340B was created is evidence to anyone with an ounce of common sense that the program lacks inadequate oversight.

Credible studies by several government watchdog groups, including the Government Accountability Office, also allege the costly program isn’t living up to its intention.

When our government creates programs like 340B and leaves them to operate unchecked for decades, loopholes are found and abused. If even government bureaucrats – including those in charge of 340B itself – claim the effort is flawed, isn’t it worth the attention of taxpayers and their elected representatives?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.


Will the union further control and water down Kentucky’s teacher discipline procedures?

With the brouhaha over improper testing activities at Louisville’s Male High School now headed to the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB), I wondered if any initial action by that board might be planned for its next meeting on July 20-21, 2014. So, I checked out the agenda book for the meeting, which recently showed up in the EPSB’s web site.

I didn’t find any mentions of Male High or the three individuals who are currently implicated for problems at the school, but I did stumble across something else that may be equally, if not more, serious.

A “Retreat Guidesheet” regarding “Disciplinary Review” starting on Page 82 (use Adobe Acrobat’s page number feature, there are no printed page numbers in the agenda book) provides cause for concern.

It seems like the teachers’ union is trying to further control and dilute the school staff discipline process.

[Read more...]

Oklahoma Supreme Court says legislature, not state board of education, has final word on Common Core

LSCIn a breathtakingly short four hours, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that state’s board of education can forget its arrogant idea that they trump the Oklahoma Legislature on important education decisions.

As Joy Pullmann at the Heartland Institute reports, “The board of education argued the legislature has no constitutional right to determine public school curriculum and tests.” Pullmann says the court found this state agency nonsense is “Preposterous.”

The ruling in Oklahoma has implications that go far beyond the borders of that state. It reaffirms that even in areas of standards and curriculum, state legislatures with similar constitutions are the final authority over what the state’s schools teach.

However, it is necessary for legislators to step up to their responsibilities. Because legislators are ultimately responsible for education, they cannot push off that accountability to other, lower-level state agencies.

This is a school choice win because in most states with good school choice laws, the state education bureaucracy has not been supportive, at least initially, and it took legislative action to create choices for students and parents.

So, the new ruling certainly is a win for Oklahoma parents. It confirms control of their schools is the responsibility of their accountable, elected officials, not bureaucratic education agencies which traditionally have proved far less interested in parent concerns. Because Oklahoma is a charter school state, this new court ruling will undoubtedly help that state’s public schools of choice to continue to offer viable alternatives to traditional public schools unfettered with the entanglements found in Common Core’s one size must fit all set of standards.

The case may set a precedent for other states with similar constitutions, which very well may include Kentucky, where a 1989 supreme court ruling already says that the legislature, not any other agency, has ultimate authority and responsibility for education.

Are new standards enslaving the Gettysburg Address?

The war over teaching history is heating up, again

Back in the mid-1990’s a debacle ensued when highly biased national history standards were proposed. In the end, the US Senate adopted a resolution condemning the standards and shortly after that the congress pulled money from the group creating those standards. It wasn’t a happy experience.

Now, new issues with public school education standards in the area of history and social studies have raised their ugly heads again, and the situation promises to be even more contentious than the brouhaha already swirling around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Standards for history and social studies once again are in the crosshairs, and it looks like concerned citizens are loading up to start shooting with high caliber ammunition.

[Read more...]

Reports: Teachers’ unions in revolt over Common Core State Standards

Last week the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the country, made major headlines in its annual meeting with the passage of a call for the resignation of the US Secretary of Education (See New Business Item 23 here). Serious problems that are surfacing with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which the NEA previously identified, probably played a role in that incredible action.

Now, Politico reports that the American Federation of Teachers, the next most prominent teachers’ union, is taking an almost equally astonishing action regarding Common Core with “plans to give its members grants to critique the academic standards — or to write replacement standards from scratch.”

Politico adds:

“It’s a sign that teachers are frustrated and fed up — and they’re making their anger heard, loud and clear.”

Resolutions to be considered at the AFT annual meeting include one citing inappropriate political influence in the standards, administrative bungling, and corporate profiteering. Another vote may be taken to call for complete, outright opposition to the standards.

It’s hard to see how Common Core can survive without teacher support. Historically in Kentucky, both our old KIRIS and CATS assessments ultimately crashed when Kentucky teachers finally had enough of them.

Taking liberty to Madisonville’s airwaves: BIPPS makes inaugural appearance on WFMW/WKTG

Microphone-pic-150x150While Kentucky law allows health boards to adopt regulations to enforce laws created by elected officials, the state’s high court said the Health Nannies that populate these appointed boards may not usurp the role of legislators.

After Hopkins Co. Attorney Todd P’Pool indicated he would not enforce a smoking ban that did not bear the vote of elected officials, a watered-down ban was approved by the local fiscal court.

Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters joins host Pat Ballard tomorrow (Monday) at 7:30 a.m. (Central) on 730 WFMW-AM and WKTG 94.9 FM for BIPPS’ inaugural appearance on Madisonville’s airwaves.

Listen live here as Jim and Pat focus the mission of the Bluegrass Institute and why it’s important to limit the scope of regulatory powers in order to protect Kentuckians’ individual liberties.

Read here about how the recent Kentucky Supreme Court ruling represents a BIPPS victory for individual liberty, private-property rights and for accountability in government — even at the local level. Help keep BIPPS fighting for freedom in the Bluegrass State. Click on the “Donate” button at www.bipps.org.

Common Core… not what it’s cracked up to be?

“Common Core is not state-led, rigorous, or internationally-benchmarked, and it poses a grave threat to family,LSC local, and state sovereignty,” said Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute during a public hearing for the Pennsylvania State Senate Education Committee back in May 2013.

It seems that much of what Common Core advocates have been telling us is either deceptive or factually unfounded.

For instance, the very idea that the program is a “state-led” initiative is misleading at best.

The Common Core was created by groups that are funded by the federal government, private foundations (notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and big businesses. This is interesting, given that most school-choice opponents think that big business is involved in charter schools when really it seems as if big business is actually much more involved in the standards and curriculum of traditional public schools.

It is also worth mentioning the lack of transparency in creating the standards. The decisions were made hidden away from public eye, and it’s not certain who the key decision makers for the Common Core standards really were.

The public does not have any assurance whatsoever that the experts who were present for the meetings actually had a say in creating the standards. Pullman did say that, according to validation committee members, four lead writers with no background in K-12 education  — who were not even from Pennsylvania — had the final say in creating the benchmarks for the state.

During the hearing, Pullman made a reference to research from Bluegrass Institute’s education analyst Richard Innes. As Pullmann tells it:

“In the 1990s, Innes called out the Kentucky department of education for a jump in the numbers of students excluded from taking state tests, which caused higher overall student test scores. To attempt to prove him wrong, the department hired a researcher to extrapolate what scores on state tests the excluded kids would have gotten by pulling their results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. One problem: NAEP scores are anonymous. No problem. Simply by comparing basic demographic data from both tests, the researcher was able to attach student names back onto their original test scores with an 86 percent accuracy rate.”

And while many aspects of the Common Core can be debated, it is irrefutable that, at the time of implementation, there was no evidence to say that Common Core had benefited students anywhere in the world.

How do we know? Because it was an entirely experimental endeavor, Pullman pointed out in her testimony.

In other words, states across the country, including Kentucky (the first state to adopt Common Core), implemented this program without any idea of whether or not the program would work.

Jason Zimba, one of the two Common Core math writers, said that the Common Core prepares students “for a non-selective community college.” So much for the Common Core standards being rigorous, college- and- career- ready, and internationally benchmarked.

Elaina Waters, BIPPS Intern